MANILA — Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila M. De Lima is flying to Maguindanao on Sunday for the fifth anniversary observance of the celebrated Maguindanao massacre.
The massacre claimed the lives of 58 civilians, including 15 women and 32 media practitioners, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.
In a text message on Friday, De Lima said she “looks forward to having a dialogue with the families of the victims and touch base with some witnesses.”
A total of 197 individuals, led by the Ampatuan clan, have been charged for the brutal killings.
Reacting to observations from international journalists’ groups about the alleged “slow” pace of the trial of the case, De Lima said that she understood the impatience of various sectors but defended the DOJ prosecution team.
De Lima said the nature of the case, with its numerous accused and witnesses, is a main factor in the trial’s slow pace.
The Maguindanao massacre occurred on the morning of Nov. 23, 2009 in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province. While the 58 victims were on their way to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan town, they were kidnapped and brutally killed.
Mangudadatu was then challenging Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., son of the incumbent Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and member of one of Mindanao’s leading Muslim political clans in the then forthcoming Maguindanao gubernatorial election.
The people killed included Mangudadatu’s wife, his two sisters, journalists, lawyers, aides, and motorists who were witnesses or were mistakenly identified as part of the convoy.